From mE to yoU?

Last week the Swedish Parliament organised a seminar focusing on IT in the future. I rather liked the emphasis Professor Kia Höök put on the importance of having a vision for what we would like to use the technology for. She used Japan as an example, who has been very active in formulating their u-Japan strategy, although it contains some ideas that are very far from what I believe the majority of Swedish citizens would like.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) is trying to contribute to the understanding of what the new Internet technology can bring. Last year they launched the Internet Foresight project, with the purpose of identifying central questions and come with suggestions for how they can be addressed to ensure that Sweden continues to be a leading Internet nation.

The European Union is of course also focusing on ICT in their research programs. ICT are considered critical to improve the competitiveness of European industry and to meet the demands of its society and economy. More specifically it can have an impact on productivity and innovation, modernisation of public services, and advance science and technology.

My own contribution to this topic is a paper called “A Software Platform for Societal Entrepreneurship” that I will present at a conference called Positive Design. It takes place in April 3-5 in Monterrey, Mexico. My idea is based on the concept my colleague Helena Kovács developed in the Societal Entrepreneurship Project last year, namely “the researcher as societal entrepreneur and the societal entrepreneur as researcher”. My proposition is to use Web 2.0 technology to develop a platform for services that can support societal entrepreneurial initiatives. This is, of course, very much related to initiatives such as Google’s Open Social.

I still think that some of the best thinking about the future of society and technology is the trilogy “The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture” by Manuel Castells. I wonder where I put those thick books… and I should read his more recent paper on social uses of wireless communication technology

What would you like to see in your country’s vision for how to use the Internet in the future? Write a comment!


Winter Light

Last summer, the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman passed away. He was a master at describing the dark sides of the human mind and capturing the Scandinavian mood. Winter in the southern parts of Sweden is especially bleak. The lack of snow makes the long dark days almost unbearable.

My friend Julie Barnes got tired of all the negative conversations going on all around us, why she started the “Zest for Life Discovery”. She recently sent an email to all the members of the UK Appreciative Inquiry Network, inviting us to participate in this inquiry. These are her words:

  • “Instead of talking up a global recession, I’d like to create more conversation about abundance.
  • Instead of being afraid of terrorist attacks and creating more divisions between people, I’d like to talk about our similarities, our common hopes and wishes and start valuing our differences.
  • Instead of berating our young people as trouble-makers, fighters, drinkers and obese over-eaters, I’d like to hear about what makes them happy, what they are good at and what they are passionate about. What Bertrand Russell calls a ‘zest for life’.
I’ve been working on some appreciative questions and want to try them out. I’m inviting people to ask some or all of these questions in conversations with others – formally and informally – with family, friends, colleagues, clients, acquaintances and complete strangers. Start the conversation and see where it takes you – and them. I’ll be interested to hear from you:

  • About these conversations – what are people saying and feeling?
  • About these questions – how can we improve them?
  • What more can we do to promote conversations like these? Eg sending the questions to Gordon Brown? Writing the story for a national newspaper? Building these questions into a conversation at least once a day?

Zest for life questions
Try asking your family, friends, colleagues, clients, acquaintances and complete strangers these appreciative questions. Listen attentively, prompting for full responses and focusing on the positive. Note down key points and quotable quotes.

If you are being interviewed, answer fully from your own experiences. Enjoy this opportunity to talk without limits, about your greatest happiness, achievements, passions and delights.
  1. Zest for life
    When do you feel most alive; what gives you your zest for life? When are you most passionate? Tell me about a time in your life when you felt most alive, zestful and passionate. What were you doing? Who was there? What did you do? What made you choose this example?
  2. Being your best
    When are you at your best? Describe a time when you felt at your best; perhaps when you felt happy, fulfilled, and confident. What were you doing? What did others do? How did it feel then?. How does it feel now as you recall it?
  3. What do you value? What matters to you?
    In these stories, what do you value most about yourself and about others? What else do you value?
  4. What can we learn?
    What can we learn from these experiences of being our best? How can we take what we know and apply it to create more of this in our lives/ in the world?
  5. How can it be better?
    You wake up after a long sleep and find that the world is a better place. What is happening, how is it different, how do you know.
  6. What is happening right now?
    What do you see beginning right now which gives you hope for the future?
  7. What does the world need from us?
    What is the world calling us to be and to do? What might you do, right now?
  8. What do you wish for?
    What three wishes do you have: for yourself, for others, for the world?”

Please heed the call and send your answers to Julie Barnes!

For those of you also interested in the scientific aspects of happiness, have a look at Professor Martin Seligman’s work.

“A too powerful ego is a prison from which a man must escape if he is to enjoy the world to the full. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of the man who has escaped from this prison of self… Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” From “The Conquest of Happiness” by Bertrand Russell


In Good Company

Last summer when I was visiting my parents, I came to think about how boring CV’s often are. They mostly focus on what you have done, not the exciting projects you are currently engaged in or the adventures you plan for the future. And they are not supposed to include pictures. So I decided to put together something different and the result was The Holmberg Gazette.

The first issue was created during rainy summer days using my parents’ computer, with a cat in my lap. During Christmas the same cat also helped with the second issue that I now proudly present. I'm very fortunate in working together with bright and inspiring people all over the world. In this issue you meet some of them: Liz Mellish from Australia, Clive Margetts (futurefocus) and Paul Corney (Sparknow) from the UK, Annet Van de Wetering (TNO Management Consultants) from The Netherlands, and Helena Kovács (Apprino), Bengt-Göran Bengtner (The Business Lighthouse) and Ingegerd Green from Sweden.

You probably also know many great persons. Please put their names and web pages in a comment and let more people get to know them!


Agile Retrospectives

The approaching and start of a new year often triggers reflection and dreaming. Looking back at what happened during the last year, setting ambitions for the next. A former colleague of mine often said that it is our bad experiences that create our strongest desires for the future. That we at least are sure of that we don’t want that to happen again. However, our tendency to focus on trouble and problems is not necessarily always productive. We also need to remember the good, in order to make more of that happen. Happiness is not the equivalent of lack of unhappiness.

Esther Derby and Diana Larsen have combined the ideas behind agile software development with appreciative inquiry to a new way of doing Lessons Learned sessions. They call it “Agile Retrospectives”. Interested? Check out this brief and witty text, look at the informative and funny video or buy the book. I believe that this way of doing reoccurring formative (e)valuations of projects where you look at successes as well as challenges, but also document ideas and make sure that good contributions are recognised can create a permanent change in the organisation towards a more constructive approach in general. Creating what Gervase Bushe calls a transformational change.

Together with my research colleagues at the IT University and Ericsson I am looking into doing research in this direction. We will develop a Lessons Learned-tool that incorporates some of the ideas described above. The trick will be to also combine it with strength-based perspective while doing the research as well, using what I learned from being a guest editor for the special AI Practitioner issue on appreciative inquiry and research. An agile retrospective on the work on agile retrospectives. It’s all about appreciating recursion…


Promises, Promises

According to an investigation made by an insurance company, about a third of the youngsters in Sweden planned to be both drunk and shoot fireworks at this New Year’s Eve. No wonder that the news is full of stories about boys with their hands and faces damaged, destroyed properties and hysterical pets. As always.

Don’t get me wrong. I love fireworks. Really great ones, handled by professionals. One of my best experiences was at the Millennium Eve celebration in London. People flocked around the Thames to see the splendid show. We were there, my aunt and I. Watching 3M£ go up in smoke, but it was a very special experience.

However, lots of money is spent on rather dull fireworks, in my opinion. What if we would start a movement where people were encouraged to contribute to a really big firework session, one for each city/town/village instead of buying their own? Since that would probably amount to quite a lot of capital, perhaps it could also be used for some kind of lottery and for supporting local societal entrepreneurs. If this would be a success, the business for fireworks producers and suppliers of course would change, but surely we as a society would benefit from it. Lots of cities are already using money from taxes to provide fireworks, with the usual discussions in tow. In Göteborg, the biggest fireworks display is hosted by the major daily newspaper: Göteborgs-Posten. I still think it’s possible to create common fireworks that combine beauty and excitement with safety and support. Combining play with care, as prescribed by The Play Ethic.

The Swedish lifestyle magazine Camino is focusing on sustainable consumption. Right now they are promoting a competition, gathering peoples’ New Year promises. Maybe my promise should be to get this movement rolling…